His arms and face reddened by 18 months in the desert sun and wind, the lieutenant colonel unrolls a map on the hood of his jeep and points to it with his cobra-headed bully stick.

"How you going to kill all your communists here?" he asks a young captain who is planning the next day's battle.

This inquisitor is Lt. Col. Lory (Mac) Johnson Jr., resident adviser to the American forces and chief umpire once the battle begins. Driving a jeep with no windshield, Johnson pitches and sways across the battlefield, chasing down tanks like a cowboy on horseback pursuing stampeding cattle across the plains.

His radio call sign is "Cobra 7" -- thus the carving on his swagger stick -- and when he barks orders over the radio, everyone listens. It is possible, though not easy, to cheat on the NTC's laser battlefield, so Johnson and his 60 umpires are there to keep the soldiers honest.

When Johnson spots a Soviet tank driving through a minefield, he whips out his all-purpose laser -- known as a "god gun" -- and knocks the tank out of action. Lasers cannot simulate mines or artillery, so the umpires must watch for mine kills and estimate artillery casualties.

Similarly, the A10 and F16 attack planes are not equipped with laser guns or receivers, so the umpires must gauge casualties from air strikes.

Early in the battle, two black A10s loop overhead for two slow passes, dropping simulated bombs.

"Cobra 7. Both planes are dead," he radios in disgust. "They flew over and lollygagged around with two circles and took all kinds of missile fire."

But later another A10 roars over the ridge and swoops low over an advancing Soviet tank column. Johnson immediately chases down two tanks.

"Air kill! You're dead! Air kill!" he yells, aiming his god gun with one hand and steering with the other.

For the most part, Johnson lets the lasers do the killing. When a Soviet gunner complains that he has fired four Viper rockets at an M1 without any apparent effect, Johnson explains that Vipers aren't very effective against tanks and the laser computer system takes that into account.

As the battle ends, Johnson surveys the 1st Cav's victory. "That worked pretty good," he observed. Then a soldier in the distance cuts loose with a machine gun burst.

"Cobra 7," Johnson growls into his radio. "Tell that guy the war is over."